Distant storms even as far away as 100 km, could create sudden turbulence in mid flight and cause passenger injuries because of the refusal to wear seat belts.
The research by Todd Lane from the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and The University of Melbourne, has highlighted the impact of atmospheric gravity waves caused by thunderstorms and how air safety guidelines have not taken them into
“It is likely that many reports of encounters with turbulence are caused by thunderstorm generated gravity waves, making them far more important for turbulence than had previously been recognised,” Lane said, the journal Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society reports.
“Previously it was thought turbulence outside of clouds was mostly caused by jet streams and changes in wind speed at differing altitudes, known as wind shear, but this research reveals thunderstorms play a more critical role,” he said, according to the Centre of Excellence statement.
Lane said it is now recognised that thunderstorms have far reaching effects, modifying airflow, strengthening the jet stream and enhancing wind shear at a significant distance from the storm cell itself.
Beyond the immediate safety concerns, it has been estimated that turbulence costs the aviation industry more than $100 million a year globally due to associated rerouting and service checks.
“Ten years ago, we didn’t have the computing power and atmospheric models to answer some of the important questions around turbulence,” Lane said.
“Now we can answer some crucial questions but there are only a few groups working on this problem. We need more researchers to become engaged to improve the guidelines and passenger safety.” (IANS)